The Banner Of Truth 2014
Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of the truth. (Psalm 60:4 )

"Thou hast given a banner to them that fear Thee, that it may be displayed because of the truth" (Ps. 60:4).
Holding Faith, and a Good Conscience
By Al Stoner
“Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck” (I Tim. 1:19).

The life of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is here likened by the Apostle unto a ship making a sea voyage.  This is a ship that is divinely provided and sustained, but must also be maintained by the one making passage on the ship, if the passage is to be safe.  In this case every person mans his or her own ship.  There are no stowaways riding on another’s ship: there are no children on board with a godly father or mother, no husbands riding with a godly wife, no parishioners riding with a favorite pastor.  The persistent neglect and avoidance of the required maintenance will certainly result in making shipwreck of the faith.  This is a voyage that is beset with numerous inherent dangers.  There are often grievous storms to be weathered.  There are rocks and quicksands to be avoided.  And from time to time there even comeEuroclydons, which threaten to cause much harm and loss to the ship.   This is a voyage that begins here in this world, but finally consummates in the Presence of God and of the Lamb. 

In making safe passage to glory our hope and our confidence, by design, is cast continually upon God, and upon the Lord Jesus Christ.  With regard to the necessary maintenance of the one making passage on the ship of reference, the Apostle narrows down the requirements to two essential things: holding faith, and a good conscience.  Unto a safe arrival in the world to come, the exhortation thus is: holding faith, and a good conscience.  Unto avoiding a tragic and ignominious shipwreck of the faith (from which there is no recovery), the exhortation once again is holding faith, and a good conscience.
Making Shipwreck of the Faith.  The very language of the Apostle both here and elsewhere in Scripture is mind-arresting and speaks of the utter gravity and sobriety that characterizes living by faith in the Son of God.  Paul exhorts, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Php. 2:12-13).  In salvation, the favorable working of God with men continues wherever men are working out their own salvation, but it stops when they have ceased from this work.  To say the least, men are presumptuous to think that God is favorably working with them, where they are not earnestly working together with Him.  How would they possibly know that this is the case?  The words of the Prophet Azariah son of Oded to king Asa give expression to a consistent manner of God’s working with men.  “The LORD is with you, while you be with Him; and if you seek him, He will be found of you; but if you forsake him, He will forsake you.” (II Chr. 15:2).
The fear and trembling of reference are evidence that men have indeed believed God, and that, by faith, they have seen Him who not only is invisible, but who also is “glorious in holiness” and “fearful in praises” (Exod. 15:11; Heb. 11:27).  Every man who was ever commended by God in Scripture also worked out his own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12-13).   Consider Noah (Heb. 11:7), Abraham (Gen. 17:1-5; Heb. 11:8-10), Moses (Heb. 11:23-28; 12:18-21), David (Ps. 6, 10, 13, 51, etc.), Isaiah (Isa. 6:1-8), Jeremiah (Jer. 1; 9:1-2; 12:1-4, etc.), and all the Prophets in this connection (Hos. 3:5).  
But the premier Example of this reverential fear is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, who, in the days of His flesh, “offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death, and was heard in that He feared” (Mt. 6:5-13; Lk. 12:4-5; Jn. 17; Mk. 14:33-39; Lk. 22:39-46; Heb. 5:7).  At every point His words, His deeds, His doctrine, His extended seasons in prayer, His example, His obedience, and especially His becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross, were putting men clearly in mind of the purpose for which He came into the world.
“For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them” (Lk. 9:56).  “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Lk. 19:10).  “But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Mt. 9:13).  “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God” (Jn. 3:19-21).
Therefore, for men who make a profession of faith in Christ to be careless and neglectful with regard to the faith which they have professed, that, in itself, makes it questionable whether they actually possess the “like precious faith” (II Pet. 1:1; II Tim. 1:5; Tit. 1:1; 1:4) of which the Scripture speaks.  And for those who have indeed “begun in the Spirit” to afterwards turn aside after lesser things, such as seeking to be made perfect by the flesh (Gal. 3:3), and things which pertain to “this life only” (I Cor. 15:19), all such have embarked on a route that ends in making shipwreck of the faith. 
Like the ship that recently met with disaster off the coast of Italy, neglectful souls, who started out on the narrow road that leads unto life, can be seen here and there tipped over on their sides, apparently unable to upright themselves.  In some cases such ones are mocked, “This man began to build, and was not able to finish” (Lk. 14:30).  In other cases they are lamented: “Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world” (II Tim. 4:10).  But in all cases the gravity associated with them cannot be understated: “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning” (II Pet. 2:20).  And of all such ones it can be said with regard to the cause of their failure that they were not “holding faith, and a good conscience”,
Holding Faith, and a Good Conscience.  The remedy for the avoidance of eternal disaster is here spelled out by the Apostle to Timothy. This is not a simplistic remedy, as it may appear to be at first consideration.  This twofold remedy, as it is expressed here, teaches us some valuable things about God Himself, His Person, His Nature, and His favorable and tender disposition towards men who are approaching unto Him, but also about His intolerance of unbelief and neglect.  The words point to the fact that God is “the God of salvation” (Ps. 68:20), and that Christ, by His being delivered of God for our offenses, and raised again for our justification (Rom. 4:25), has become “the Author of eternal salvation unto all who obey Him” (Heb. 5:19).  For men to continually neglectful and casual in the face of these glorious realities is inexcusable.  It shall be said of all such persistent neglectful ones, “They are without excuse.”
Holding faith speaks of keeping the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the faith of God’s elect (Tit. 1:1), as expressed by Paul.  This is the obtained like-precious faith(II Pet. 1:1) of which Peter wrote. This is the common faith (Tit. 1:4), also in the words of Paul.  This is the faith which all who are in the household of faith (Gal. 6:10) possess.  Foremostly, it is the faith which the Lord Jesus Christ authors and finishes (cf. Heb. 12:2).  From the right hand of God He nourishes and cherishes those who are cleaving unto Him with purpose of heart.
This is the faith which comes directly to grips with the sin issue by the means which God Himself has appointed.  God spared not His own Son, but offered Him up for us all, as the Apostle declared.  He gave His Son, so that whosoever believes on Him would not perish, but have everlasting life.  He sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.  The Lord Jesus Christ gave His life for the life of the world.  Here the principle expressed in the Law of Moses, “life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe” (Exod. 21:23-25), is brought to its highest application.  Christ was once offered for sins, the Just for the unjust.
Holding faith means that one continues in the faith, grounded and settled, and is not moved away from the hope of the gospel (Col. 1:23).  Trials and storms will indeed come to test whether or not one can be moved away from this blessed hope. Wherever there is faith, there will also be tribulation, trial, and testing. Blessed are all they who cannot be moved away from the hope of the gospel!
Holding faith means that one keeps in memory the things which have been preached unto him or her by the Lord, His Apostles, and godly men down through the centuries, “how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (I Cor. 15:3-4).  They are kept in memory not merely as part of one's doctrine, but also as the life-imparting means by which one continues in the Son, and in the Father (I Jn. 2:24).
Holding a good conscience speaks of maintaining a purged conscience (purged by the blood of Christ), a heart and conscience that are purified by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Those who indeed have a “good conscience” towards God received it at the first at their baptism into Christ, which, in the words of Peter, also now saves us “(not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (I Pet. 3:21).  Baptism saves us as a blessed resource for effectually dealing with defilement caused by personal sin.  It saves men as a foundational reckoning point upon what God said transpired at their baptism (cf. Rom. 6:1-4; Col. 3:1-4; Acts 2:38-39; 22:16, etc.).  
Also, those who are young in the faith must take extra care not to wound their weak conscience.  And those who have knowledge and are farther along in the faith must be sensitive that they offend not the weak consciences of those who are starting out in the faith, whose consciences are not yet fully developed (cf. I Cor. 8:7:12).  It is however expected that as men grow up in the faith of Christ, that their conscience also grows up correspondingly.  For men and women who have been in the faith for several years to expect that others respect a conscience issue that they may have, especially where God has not spoken on the matter, is entirely unacceptable.
A purged conscience is one where there is now “no more consciousness of sins” (Heb. 10:2, ASV).  This purged conscience is maintained before the living God as men continue to “draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having” their “hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and” their “bodies washed with pure water” (reckoning upon what was accomplished in their baptism into Christ, and also upon the ongoing provision which God has made for dealing with sin’s defiling power when He swore with an oath that Christ would be unto us a High Priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek).
Those who are new creatures in Christ have purposed within themselves not to sin.  But when they do occasionally sin there is a blessed provision that has been made by God for maintaining a purged conscience before Him.  Part of that provision is, of course, the confession of sin to God.  “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I Jn. 1:9).  There is the provision of drawing near to God (even when we have sinned) with a true heart, and reckoning upon our baptism into Christ, and reckoning upon what Christ has accomplished in our behalf in His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension to the right hand of God. 
There is also the blessed provision of the propitiation for sins which God has provided in His beloved Son, Jesus Christ the Righteous One.  “And He (Christ) is the propitiation (covering) for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (I Jn. 2:2).  By the grace of God we, by our faith in God through the Lord Jesus Christ, are enabled to walk in the light sins which have been taken away, sins which have been purged, sins which have been covered, and bless God, sins which God no longer sees.  “I see no transgression in Jacob,” God, who cannot lie, declared to Israel His covenanted people.  But God was able to speak this way because Christ was a “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8).  On the trestle board of eternity the matter of dealing with sin was completely resolved by God before the foundations of the earth were ever laid.  --Editor

"Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning;  and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately" (Lk. 12:35-36).